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Highway to the Danger Zone

Written By: - Date published: 12:51 pm, September 29th, 2021 - 25 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Donald Trump, International, military, Peace, uncategorized, war - Tags:

I never thought I would see the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of the United States military essentially being a witness against the previous President of the United States. Yet here we are.

Yesterday General Mark Milley appeared before Congress testifying about his involvement around the events of the January 6th insurrection. In particular his phone calls around that time to his equivalent in the Chinese military that essentially democracy is messy but the country is stable.

He was also going to ensure that he was not alone in doing this:

I personally informed both Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff [Mark] Meadows about the call, among other topics. Soon after that, I attended a meeting with Acting [Defense] Secretary [Chris] Miller, where I briefed him on the call.”

The military used to be at one with the United States both functionally and in its self-image, but here he is having a crack at his Commander in Chief from just a few months previous. I want to pay attention to the optics of General Milley standing against his own government for a moment, then get to its potential impact on the Republicans.

Does anyone remember those heady days when the military-entertainment complex could be relied upon to be as one with the nation? We’ve had US Department of Defence co-scripting films that enabled Americans to love war most particularly since Jerry Bruckheimer’s 1986 Top Gun.

With their united help, the nation would and did learn to love the military again after its 1970s and early 1980s disasters. Then the military helped out with Star Trek IV, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Deep Impact, Godzilla, and of course all those Transformers movies to name but a few.

They just happen to be some of the most popular and successful movies ever made, not only for US audiences, but here in New Zealand too. You can almost guarantee there are scripts flying around Hollywood trying to figure out Trump’s last days and how the military reacted. The US narrative industry hasn’t kept up with this cultural shift, but it will.

That starts to illustrate the schism underway between the Trump-led Republican party and the US military. Their own generals are condemning him.

General Milley has already been in trouble with Republicans as they frame the “woke” military, as he pushed real hard against Rep. Matt Gaetz when asked whether certain books were appropriate to be taught in the military:

In that exchange we have General Milley as a defender of teaching humanities:

I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding—having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”

Critical Race Theory, Milley suggested, would be useful in understanding “white rage” as well as the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol:

What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.”

Given that white extremism is their number one internal security threat, that sounds pretty reasonable. The General as humanist, diplomat, scholar, tough guy, courageous witness, leader, giving it straight back to Matt Gaetz the Republican’s own special love-child.

But then it started. Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, then got into it in that June hearing:

Anti-American indoctrination [is] seeping into parts of our military.

In May Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted in response to a recruitment ad showcasing the army’s diversity.

Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea.”

The US armed forces are appearing as a surprising defender of diversity. Which given the decades of systemic racism and misogyny that were a dominant feature of that military culture, that defence of human rights gives a shadowed contrast to where the Republicans are now.

It was also General Milley, when ordered to walk with President Trump against the Black Lives Matter protest in Lafayette, later scolded himself saying “I should not have been there. My presence there created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

The mind-exploding thing is that the military ought to be relied upon to support and vote for the Republican Party. The Republicans have more reliably than the Democrats funded the US Military so that they continue to operate in their glorious failing excess.

So when Milley was uncovered as having called the Chinese military that the organised chaos around January 6th would pass, not only did Trump and associates pile in, but super-isolationists like Senator Rand Paul tweeted “He should be court marshalled if true.”

This kind of rift is set to expand as the January 6th Senate Committee hearings continue. Then comes the Committee report, and more fulsome support for Milley through the White House. Pretty soon we’re at the 2022 mid-terms.

Senate Democrats and of course the President will be able to bring the US defence leadership firmly to their side of the aisle. That might not sound big, but in US politics it is.

It might not mean that the great military-entertainment complex stops, nor certainly will it alone stop the broader military-industrial complex of which is that is part. But I think it does mean that the long Republican romance with the military has come to an end.

When you look at all those towns, cities, ports and airbases with large military contingents, that’s a lot of mostly male voters for Republican leadership to piss off.

This isn’t going to work out well for the Republicans: it’s a highway to the danger zone.

25 comments on “Highway to the Danger Zone ”

  1. notwithstanding a few renegade left wing celebs, the US military owns hollywood

    that is not a good thing

  2. Nic the NZer 2

    We should hardly forget that the neo-conservative movement largely emerged from the US Democratic party. They have likely moved back home after being identified as some kind of a problem by Trump, though during early term when he seemed to be heading towards less international intervention.

    Politics is always badly disconnected from actual military practice, which doesn't require the showmanship.

    • Ad 2.1

      OK so who exactly are you blaming for Trump now?

      Tell us the true Democrat archaeology of the Republican Party.

      • Nic the NZer 2.1.1

        I'm not blaming anybody for Trump. There was a definite point early in the Trump presidency however when the neo-conservative elements (who were at this stage part of the republican party, something to do with Dick Cheny, were told to go). Probably Trump was just making political points about the Iraq war at the time and didn't care, but they were known to leave at that time.

        As somebody who is writing such a post should know however there has always been a significant military complex part of the Democratic party. One of the frequent criticisms of even Carter was that he was going to be less interventionist. This faction ended up forming the neo-conservative group as is well documented.

        • Ad

          Go ahead and document that formation, you made the claim.

          The Democrats aren't pure as the driven snow and certainly take donations and force Defence earmarks like anyone, for sure. The relativities are certainly getting darker.

          But the obvious marker is that the Democrats have much stronger ties to Hollywood than the Republicans do – so their Pentagon relationships are often more oblique than the Republicans. Hence the framing with the entertainment-military complex.

          • Nic the NZer

            Not that I needed to look it up to be aware of it but


            "Neoconservatism is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among liberal hawks who became disenchanted with the increasingly pacifist foreign policy of the Democratic Party and with the growing New Left and counterculture of the 1960s, particularly the Vietnam protests."

            [Held up in Pre-Moderation because of too many links]

            • Ad

              Your citation doesn't link the Democratic Party to neoliberal hawks, let alone the formation of neoconservatism.

              I'm sure it's not hard to do.

              • Nic the NZer

                Really? Its all there, I mean you just need to follow the link to find a reference for what constitutes a liberal hawk to understand how that relates to a faction of the democratic party. Its just basic knowledge of US politics that democrat and liberal are often synonymous terms.

                I think you should just take the time to understand that the war party in the US has frequently changed over time.

                • Ad

                  The term neoconservative started in 1973.

                  Your citation only shows Republican names.

                  You have been asked, twice, to provide evidence for your claim that "the neo-conservative movement largely emerged from the US Democratic party"

                  Taxonomic slippage over the term "liberal" is not evidence.

                  You have not provided evidence. Provide evidence for your claim, or put your keyboard away for the day.

                  Final warning.

                  • Nic the NZer

                    Sure, but I'll keep playing. I am going to suggest you are just using moderation threats as an incentive to get somebody to do the leg work investigating an interesting question.


                    "NRO: You mentioned that Neo-cons are typically associated with the Republican Party. But as you explain in the book, the movement has its origins in the Democratic Party. Why did the original Neo-cons abandon the Democratic Party?

                    VAISSE: Because they thought they were faithful to a certain tradition of American internationalism and anticommunism, meaning that in the 1970s people like Jeane Kirkpatrick for example or Richard Perle and many others said that they were faithful to the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, of Truman, of Kennedy, and even of Johnson by marrying, on the one hand, active involvement in world affairs and fierce anticommunism, and on the other hand, progressive politics at home. That was very much the identity of Senator Scoop Jackson who was their hero. But in the course of the 1970s, and that was confirmed in the decade afterwards, they felt that the Democratic Party was not living up to that tradition, that the Democratic Party was becoming either too isolationist or way too dovish for them. It is in 1980 that most of them decided they could not support the Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter running for reelection, and that they went over to Reagan because Reagan was offering the right foreign policy that they were advocating themselves. That is when they migrated from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party."

                    This stuff is all over the biographies of neo-conservative figures. As far as I was concerned this was just general US political knowledge.

                    A lot of these figures served the Democratic Party directly during the JFK administration.

                    • Ad

                      Well of course I will get you to cite if it's my post. Them's the rules.

                      What you need to do next time is provide citations rather than "general US political knowledge". I've now seen claims that the original neoconservatives started off in the 1930s and 1940s as Marxists including Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, and Nathan Glazer, and that ideologically the term is an unstable grab-bag of reaction and counter-reaction, but primarily from Republicans. I am certain there have been highly interventionist Democrats for some time – history shows that.

                      But your claim is now getting so, so far removed from either the post that it's irrelevant.

                      Again your citation certainly didn't confirm your claim, since Vaisse was clear that it was mostly supported and originated by Republicans. I haven't got a copy of Vaisse's book and will check this up when I can.

                  • Nic the NZer

                    You seem oddly annoyed by this claim that "the neo-conservative movement largely emerged from the US Democratic party". In fact enough to state that "But as you explain in the book, the movement has its origins in the Democratic Party" doesn't confirm anything (though it is clearly supported statement for an author of a book about the neo-conservative movement). Given "that it's irrelevant" one wonders why it was also worth asking for proof?

                    Anyway, since we don't seem to agree on the actual meanings of multiple English words I am starting to understand why conservapedia exists and liberals (broadly including myself there) don't need it and are happy with their own interpretation of sources. Clearly conservatives ascribe much more strong and definitive meanings to what they read and say. This suggests a much more definitive source would be


                    • Ad

                      Yes, if you are going to use woolly terms and ascribe them to the Democrats, you will in future need to supply definitions, and evidence. Take that as read.

                      I did not use those words you quote and would appreciate if you did not ascribe to me things I did not say. It's only polite.

                      I've now had a trawl through Vaisse's main paper that he turned into a book. His three historical groupings of "neoconservative" according to him have only tenuous links. They apply to Vaisse's named targets, "whether they agree with the term or not", to a set of tenets. Even within Vaisse's writing the meaning of the noun is very unstable.


                      Happy to agree that there have been some Democrat thinkers who were a lot more interventionist than others, but the intersections between Democrat "liberal hawks" and the neoconservatives of the Bush era seem quite rare.

                • ghostwhowalksnz

                  Its all there?.. if you cant find it how is anyone else.

                  A broad based party like the Democrats is going to be along the conservative to progressive spectrum.

                  Hilary Clinton was certainly of the 'war hawk' kind , but neocon . Hardly

                  Even NY Times pet republican Bret Stephens struggles to identify these 'born again neo cons'

                  why are major Democratic presidential candidates uniformly in favor of withdrawing from Afghanistan, to the guaranteed benefit of the Taliban and their inseparable allies in global jihad?


      • Liberal Realist 2.1.2

        Trump was never 'the problem', rather a symptom of the problem – the problem being an empire in the last and final phase (5 or 7 depending on the model). That being said, Dems & Reps are two sides of the same coin in the duopoly that is American Oligarchy…

        • Ad

          I've read a lot of Long Wave theories about inevitable entropic decline. I've yet to be convinced that the United States is in decline as a country overall.

          • Phil

            Yeah, I too am skeptical of claims that the US is on the verge of decline, rapid or otherwise. I think we forget that the US has spent the last 50 or so years being the undisputed single global superpower, which is extraordinarily rare and potentially unique through human history.

            Consequently, anything that seeks to challenge that power (e.g. the EU flexing its financial muscle, China opening up to the world, regional powers taking on greater military roles that might previously have been US-led) looks like the start of a trend toward decline and collapse when it's more likely to simply be reversion to the historical mean.

  3. McFlock 3

    I love the idea of the US military consisting of woke-liberal organisations. Would that it were true.

    • Ad 3.1

      Though it is a measure of how black the earth is scorched for humane change when the Republicans use their power to even attack the US military.

  4. Pete 4

    Highway to the Danger Zone? How about Highway to the Twilight Zone?

    Matt Gaetz as a commentator, an expert on "group cohesion" and the problem of it being "impaired?" He a major, visible, vocal supporter of a most divisive president?

    Concern for service people "unable to speak publicly for fear of retribution?" Alexander Vindman and Gaetz?

    Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired general, facing "spurious" questions from the grandstander Gaetz in itself is some sort of parody. Austin should have asked Gaetz if critical race theory came into it when his mate was trafficking young flesh and organising young women girls for Gaetz.

  5. vto 5

    very few people understand the importance of the matters about which you post ad..

    but they will in the near future..

    when they look back..

    at the picture so clearly before us now..


    sorry I dont have anything further to add ad..

  6. EE 6

    I guess the US military was looking a bit woke before the American Civil War too.
    Trying to abolish slavery and all.
    A lot of the officers on both sides went to Westpoint together.

  7. Gezza 7

    The Hurt Locker & American Sniper spring to mind as the most recent examples of the US Military-Entertainment complex setting out win over the US public to US military adventures & spending.

    Altho Chris Kyle, the American sniper, also brought home to some Americans the dangers of the US obssession with guns & the effects of PTSD on some military veterans:


  8. Michael 8

    Gen Milley copped a bit of flak from his mentors (retired four-star officers) after he accompanied Trump to a church, where he posed with a Bible (church doors closed) after ordering National Guard to clear protestors from his path. In particular, Milley received criticism for wearing combat uniform and acting as supporting caste for Trump's stunt.

    BTW, it is not the case that every member of the US military is a homicidal, right-wing maniac. Some of them, like James Mattis, are deeply thoughtful; Milley gave some evidence of this too, during his testimony. Civilians, especially on the left, display open contempt for military people, based on prejudice and ignorance.

    • Phil 8.1

      Civilians, especially on the left, display open contempt for military people, based on prejudice and ignorance.

      Your claim is largely nonsense. The contempt is not for military personnel – it's contempt for those who use the military and 'freedom' as lazy shorthands to push policies and political stances that are outright racist or paranoid.

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